tv NBC Nightly News NBC August 16, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
on our broadcast here tonight, on the brink. epic flooding threatening the stability of a key u.s. ally. there is not enough help and millions are at risk, many of them children. mixed message. the president's comments about a mosque near ground zero in new york kick up a political storm. deep impact. what all that oil did to marine life in the gulf, and now the hunt for clues from shrimp to sharks. and "making a difference" by living a dream. denied for too long. we'll meet a teacher with a lesson for everyone. we'll meet a teacher with a lesson for everyone. "nightly news" begins now.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. this is no longer the story of rampant flooding in a faraway place halfway around the world. tonight, it's the story of a natural disaster so large, so staggering it threatens to destabilize the entire nation of pakistan -- a country with nuclear weapons in a dangerous part of the world. tonight, water covers about a fifth of pakistan, the length of the country from north to south, an area roughly equal in size to the state of florida. the rainwaters have been relentless this monsoon season and more of them are on the way. 20 million people have been affected by the flooding. 6 million are at risk right now of deadly disease. there's no way of knowing the number of dead. early estimates begin at 1,500. they will likely grow exponentially. we begin our reporting with nbc's stephanie gosk in pakistan. >> reporter: in pakistan,
desperation. 19 days of monsoon rains turned into deadly floods, millions still don't have enough food or clean water. in the heartland today, angry protests at the lack of help. in the rugged northwest, cut off after bridges washed away, a mule train packed with rice and cooking oil tried to make its way around falling rocks. where the water is still rising, some of the stranded escape by zip line, others by raft. today, the u.n. said 3.5 million children were at risk from deadly disease. in the children's ward at mardan hospital, there aren't enough beds and the patients keep coming in. dr. akram kaan says this 2-month-old girl may not have long to live. diarrhea and fever are more than her vulnerable system can handle. nearly every child here has the same symptoms. all sick because they drank dirty water. kaan worries that some may have cholera, but the test is expensive and takes too long. >> it is getting very much
worse. we can see these poor people dying in front of us because of lack of facilities. >> reporter: the antibiotics are gone. the hospital hasn't received any supplies from the government or relief organizations. the doctors here say they are in desperate need of aid but they don't have the time to actually ask for it. they're doubling up on shifts, some working through the night which is their busiest time. they're not getting any help. but they continue to accept patients like gulfaroza's two children. she brought them here in the middle of the night. my son was kicking his hands and feet, she told us, shaking and shivering violently in bed. ten miles from the hospital, the children's father showed us where they have been living since the flood destroyed their home. ten feet away, a water pump still being used though the water is probably contaminated. as we left, we saw gulforoza
walking back to the village. she has nowhere else to go, even if it puts her last healthy child at risk. stephanie gosk, nbc news, pakistan. >> for more on this we go to our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell, who's in our washington newsroom tonight. andrea, for an american television audience watching all of this from halfway around the world, what's at stake here? >> reporter: as you have been pointing out this is a disaster of biblical proportions for pakistan, but it's also a potential national security crisis, brian, for the u.s. pakistan is where osama bin laden is hiding. it's been an uncertain ally in the war on terror. we learned that again most recently from the wikileaks files. pakistan has nuclear weapons, as you have said, and a civilian government that has failed miserably to respond to this crisis. in fact, from all reports so far islamic charities connected to pakistani terror groups have provided more aid than the government has. pakistan's military is trying to fill the gap, but what's really striking in this crisis is that aid is not pouring in from the rest of the world. the u.n. has called for it. only 20% has come in. in contrast, the u.s. has flown
in $76 million so far, diverting military support from afghanistan. frankly, the hope is that this could counteract the virulent anti-americanism that's been so obvious in pakistan, brian. >> so many reasons to watch this closely beyond the human crisis. andrea mitchell in washington, thanks. for those willing to help the pakistan people, we have put resources on our website for all aid directed there. nightly.msnbc.com. president obama is on the road this week with questions still following behind him about why he chose to wade into a fight going on here in new york about a plan to put a mosque near ground zero. our chief white house correspondent chuck todd traveling with the president. he's in wisconsin tonight. chuck, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. well, the president planned a week of campaigning on his accomplishments, but words he used over the weekend have stepped on that message. president obama in wisconsin
today launching a three-day cross-country campaign blitz. >> good to be back in the midwest. good to be out of washington once in a while. >> reporter: a trip intended for the president to showcase things like this -- a start-up advanced battery manufacturing plant that got off the ground thanks to money from mr. obama's $800 billion stimulus plan. over the weekend there was another firestorm. >> this is such a raw wound and they are just pouring salt into it. >> it was very unnecessary. he shouldn't have said what he said friday night. >> this wouldn't be a controversy if it was a proposal to build a synagogue or church. >> reporter: clouding his intended message on the campaign trail. this began friday night at a white house dinner marking the start of the muslim holiday ramadan. the president took it upon himself to directly address the debate over building a mosque near ground zero. >> as a citizen and as president i believe muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.
that includes the right to build a place of worship and community center on private property in lower manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances. >> reporter: this was a reversal of a white house position from earlier this month. >> i think this is likely a matter for new york city and the local community to decide. >> reporter: but aids said the president decided he had to speak out because in his view there was a threat to basic constitutional rights. the swift republican response saturday led the president, while vacationing on the florida panhandle, to clarify his remarks saying he didn't intend to endorse the idea of building a mosque so close to ground zero. republicans, focused squarely on november's elections, are pouncing on the mosque comments. >> it demonstrates that washington, the white house, the administration, the president himself seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of america. >> reporter: not all republicans believe this is a good political strategy. some veterans of the bush
administration are worried the anti-muslim rhetoric undermines our own arguments about being strict constructionists on the constitution and the freedom of religion clause, but still some democrats are running very scared on this. senator majority leader harry reid today made sure it was crystal clear to his supporters that he does not want to see a mosque built near ground zero. >> chuck todd in wisconsin tonight. chuck, thanks. we move to louisiana and the great unknown. commercial shrimping season opened today in the gulf of mexico. this while 672 miles of gulf coastline are still tainted by oil. more than 28,000 people are working to protect the shoreline and wildlife and clean up the mess. our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson was out on the water again today. >> reporter: it's a welcome
sight in louisiana's bay collette, west of the mississippi river. shrimp boats trawling nets instead of boom. d.c. cooper says he's home. >> i wish we had a few more shrimp but it feels good. >> reporter: his nets bear the -- of seasons past. shrimping brings $1.3 billion per year to louisiana's economy and more than 14,000 jobs. much of the industry and its workers sidelined by the oil leak. have you seen any oil? >> no, none. >> thank god. >> reporter: that's got to make you feel good. >> it really does. >> reporter: on this trip his nets come up clean. no signs of oil as the fish are sorted from the shrimp with a net and then by hand. what scares the shrimpers isn't so much what they can see but rather what they can't, and the impact it could have for years to come. state and federal tests consistently find no contamination in the seafood, but in the mud of one of the passes, researcher bob kibler found benzine, a toxic component of oil. >> a hundred to a thousand times more than you would expect.
>> reporter: today matt o'brien's shrimp dock stands empty. he says the bp program that pays shrimpers to help clean up the oil has tied up so many boats there is not enough shrimp for o'brien to make a profit. >> the vessel of opportunity program is going to cripple the industry. >> reporter: but the gulf seafood industry gets the presidential seal of approval. during his getaway to florida's panhandle president obama swam in the water and assured americans the seafood is safe to eat. fishermen hope he has more pull with consumers than tourists who have yet to follow the president's lead back to the coast. here in the venice marina there is still plenty of concern. first of all, there is no date yet to begin bottom kill on the well that started all this trouble. while this is a good day for shrimpers, for oystermen and charter boat captains, their lives remain very much on hold. brian? >> anne thompson in the harbor there at venice, louisiana. anne, thanks. investigators are looking
into lightning as the possible cause of a plane crash this morning in colombia. the 737 broke apart upon hitting the ground. all 131 aboard initially survived, though one passenger died en route to the hospital. a lot of people upon seeing this wreckage are crediting the pilot with averting a far greater air disaster. now we move to iraq where a milestone is fast approaching after more than seven years of war -- the end of u.s. combat operations. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is with the fourth striker brigade as they carry out one last mission to get out and come home. >> reporter: at camp liberty in baghdad, soldiers lower the flag of the last combat brigade in iraq. >> i never dreamed i would be one of the last ones out. in all honesty, when it started up, it felt like it wasn't ever going to stop. >> attention! >> reporter: for 31-year-old staff sergeant tim osborn from ohio, the war has been his 20s.
he was here in 2003 to topple a dictator, called back in 2007 to stop a civil war. and now to end combat. he tells me his greatest accomplishment -- giving iraqis a chance. >> if what was going on here was going on in america, i wouldn't want my kids to grow up in that world. i would want somebody else to come in and help. if it took them doing what we did here, then i would welcome that. >> reporter: but osborn has had more friends, among the more than 4,400 american troops, killed in iraq. >> the blue and gold stars for my four brothers that i lost. >> reporter: by an almost impossible coincidence, osborn has been in the same platoon for three tours with sergeant first class joe huffman from south carolina. in his trailer today, huffman waits for orders home. everything is already packed except his computer with pictures of family he'll soon see.
he, too, believes he's leaving iraq better than he found it. >> absolutely. for me and for my country it was worth it. the sacrifice of the soldiers was worth it and what we came to right now at the end, the sacrifice was worth it. >> reporter: osborn and huffman, who started the war together, will be leaving together, too. >> let's go. >> hurry up. get the ramp up! [ laughter ] >> reporter: a friendship seared in war in a generation that has defined the u.s. military. richard engel, nbc news, baghdad. more to tell you about when we continue along the way this monday night, including a rare look at what some creatures of the deep can tell us about conditions down there in the gulf. and what happened to this woman 60 years ago that she's using as a lesson today making a difference for others?
scientists are trying to measure the oil leak's impact on wildlife. for one thing, they are checking on a giant species that could offer some broader insight. our own jeff corwin traveled to the ewing bank off the coast of louisiana. >> reporter: it's a boat ride at top speed for eric hoffmayer of the gulf research lab searching for the largest fish on earth -- the whale shark. elusive and shy filter feeders with massive mouths, easy targets for oil. finding them would be next to impossible if it were not for eric's eyes in the sky -- spotter planes already in the air scanning hundreds of miles of the gulf of mexico. his mission, tracking and investigating the condition of whale sharks feeding in the oil leak zone. five anxious hours later and 60 miles off the coast of louisiana -- >> copy on the whale sharks. please repeat the coordinates. >> reporter: -- we finally get good news from the sky. >> we're headed your way.
>> reporter: racing to hook up with the circling planes, it's time to tag these fish in order to keep constant track of their movements. swimming with them is the only way to do it. these gentle giant fish, which can grow up to 40 feet in length, feed almost exclusively on plankton. eric and i attach a satellite tag to the first shark. the trailing beacon transmits a signal any time it comes to the surface. a second pop-up tag tracks the fish's depth and temperature. if the shark ingests oil and dies, it will likely sink to the bottom. in order to determine the health of the shark, a tissue sample is carefully taken from its fin. >> now that the whale shark has been fitted with transmitters we'll know if it's coming into harm's way. photos taken weeks ago show whale sharks swimming in oil. scientists now believe these
fish later died. the challenge now is to find the others. >> these animals are extremely important. they are sort of an indicator of sentinel species in the gulf of mexico eco-system. they are feeding at the base of the food chain. >> reporter: with millions of gallons of oil remaining in gulf waters, scientists like eric hoffmayer believe these sharks -- like canaries in the coal mine -- could be key to understanding if the entire eco-system is still in jeopardy. jeff corwin, nbc news, the gulf of mexico. we'll be back in a moment with news about a great american voice that we hear right here every night.
they are now on hold indefinitely as the result of a ruling by the ninth circuit u.s. court of appeals. just last week, a california judge issued a ruling allowing gay marriage, overturning the ban that was imposed by proposition 8. today's ruling reverses that decision for now with all of it likely headed for the supreme court. michael douglas, the academy award winning actor who happens to be the voice you hear at the top of this broadcast each and every night has a tumor in his throat according to people.com. douglas, who is 65, will undergo two months of chemotherapy and radiation. his doctors are optimistic. his new film -- that "wall street" sequel -- comes out september 24th. james j. kilpatrick has died. he was among the first and most prominent conservative journalists in this country -- first, for the richmond, virginia, "news leader" and later on television as the conservative half of the "60 minutes" point-counterpoint duo
with shana alexander which we later learned was ripe for parody on "snl." in our own nbc archives, we found kilpatrick's debate with the reverend martin luther king, jr., on the issue of integrating lunch counters in the south. kilpatrick's early stand against integration was strident. he called for massive resistance, a position he softened later in life. james j. kilpatrick, called kilpo by some, died yesterday in washington. he was 89 years old. and coming up here tonight, our "making a difference" report. what we can all learn from a woman whose dream of being a teacher was denied.
finally here tonight, our "making a difference" report. tonight's story comes from springfield, missouri. it's about a woman who wanted to be a teacher and a woman who could teach us all a lot about patience and perseverance. after being denied a college education 60 years ago when america was a different place. her story tonight from nbc's mike taibbi. >> reporter: for 78-year-old mary price-walls and her son terry, it's been a summer spent revisiting her past.
>> this is where i was born in a log cabin house right here. >> reporter: a cabin outside springfield, missouri, that's now part of another family's modern home. >> look at this. this was the original beams and stuff? >> reporter: living here in 1950, mary was a star graduate of lincoln high school, an all-black school, and was the first african-american to apply to what is now missouri state university, then an all-white school. in that time of segregation, she was turned down. you thought they would say yes? >> well, of course. why shouldn't they? a student's a student. what difference does color make? >> reporter: it was son terry who found out why it made all the difference then. documents show university officials agonizing over the application by a colored girl who longed to be a teacher -- a test case, they surmised, making the college a guinea pig on the subject of race. mary's application was denied and she got the news from the papers, not the university. >> never.
i never got one word from them. >> it's a part of history that had been a mystery or a missed story and i want it to be known. >> reporter: so did the missouri state university of today which, at its summer commencement, gave her an unprecedented undergraduate honorary degree. >> good people can make bad decisions and 60 years ago a bad decision was made. >> reporter: the idea of the honorary degree didn't sit well with mary at first. it recalled for her the feeling of rejection she experienced 60 years ago. >> i wasn't humiliated. i was angry. very angry. >> reporter: but she suppressed her anger and simply didn't talk about that rejection, filling her life with children and grandchildren, and instead of teaching, manual labor, including a stint as a custodian at a local science center which she quit only last year. she's not bitter now, believing still what she believed as a teenager whose future hadn't yet
been snatched from her. >> people are people. the color of your skin doesn't make any difference. >> reporter: what might have been and should have been but never was a visible lesson from a teacher named mary. mike taibbi, nbc news, springfield, missouri. and that's our broadcast for this monday night. good to be back and thank you for being with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. the rocky relationship between california and gay marriage takes another turn. gay marriages are on hold again tonight and apparently for at least several months. >> that ruling came down just hours ago.